Half of a Yellow Sun (2013)

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Released 8-Aug-2014

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Featurette-Making Of-(5:01)
Trailer-Reaching for the Moon, The Sea
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2013
Running Time 106:52
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Biyi Bandele
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Thandie Newton
Chiwetel Ejiofor
Anika Noni Rose
John Boyega
Onyeku Onwenu
Susan Wokoma
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Ben Onono
Paul Thomson


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Half of a Yellow Sun, based upon the award winning 2006 novel of the same name by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, was written for the screen and directed by Nigerian playwright Biyi Bandele as his first feature. The film covers the period in Nigeria from 1960, when the country won its independence from Great Britain, until 1970 through internal ethnic tensions and a civil war between the central government and the breakaway eastern regions called Biafra. The events of the period are told through the lives and loves of twin sisters Olanna (Thandie Newton) and Kainene (Anika Noni Rose).

     Olanna and Kainene are beautiful, intelligent, highly educated women from a wealthy family that mixes in the highest political circles of the newly independent Nigeria. Kainene is the more cynical and businesslike of the sisters and she becomes the lover of expatriate English writer Richard (Joseph Mawle). Olanna travels away from Lagos and moves in with her boyfriend Odenigbo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a radical teacher of mathematics at the local university, and his houseboy Ugwu (John Boyega). Odenigbo’s traditional mother (Onyeku Onwenu) does not approve, calling Olanna a witch and pushing Amala (Susan Wokoma), a girl from their village, onto Odenigbo. The lives of everyone, however, are altered when the Eastern provinces break away from Nigeria to become Biafra, sparking a civil war.

     The first section of Half of a Yellow Sun is a rather melodramatic love square involving people living a comfortable, privileged lifestyle. As the film is based upon a novel, many characters only appear briefly in the film and anyone who has not read the book would have trouble keeping track of who they are, such as Odenigbo’s revolutionary friends. As well, the concentration on the central love stories means that other characters I believe are central to the book, such as Mama and Ugwu, who could have provided a wider story with their more traditional backgrounds, get little chance to develop.

     Indeed, the love stories remain central to the film even after the civil war starts, bringing death, random violence, relocations and major lifestyle changes. This war, called the Biafran war, was a typical dirty and bloody civil war along tribal and ethnic lines in Nigeria with the murders and brutality such wars entail. Yet, except for occasional on screen violence and archival newsreels, Half of a Yellow Sun does not provide much of a sense of period, time or place: it feels too sanitised, too beautiful, everyone looks so well groomed and the landscape, even of the refugee camp, is clean and pretty and the peril, chaos and menace of war is muted.

     The African locations of Half of a Yellow Sun do look beautiful and the acting of Thandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose and Chiwetel Ejiofor (who was born in London from Nigerian parents) is OK. Ejiofor, of course, was nominated for a best actor Oscar for his role in 12 Years a Slave, but lost out to Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club. Yet, to me the acting in Half of a Yellow Sun is not convincing and, like the plot, does not really pull at your heart like it should given the terrible events happening around the characters. As a result Half of a Yellow Sun is really a period romance which, while interesting in parts, is not as compelling or powerful as it should be.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Half of a Yellow Sun is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original theatrical ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

     The print is sharp and detailed with beautiful deep, natural colours showing off the Nigerian countryside. Blacks and shadow detail are very good, brightness and contrast consistent and skin tones natural.

     Other than some minor ghosting and aliasing, artefacts and marks are absent. The archival newsreels did have the expected marks and scratches.

     There are no subtitles.

     The beautiful, natural looking print.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track at 448 Kbps.

     My review copy contained an authoring error in the audio; the centre front speaker was silent and all voices and effects that should have been in this speaker came from the left rear! There were still music and effects in the left and right front, and the sub-woofer added bass to the fireworks, rain, thunder, and artillery shelling. It was a bit strange, and there is nothing wrong with my system, with the voices in the “making of” properly in the centre front speaker.

     With the above in mind, the effects, such as gunshots and engines, were clear and with nice depth. Dialogue, all coming from the left rear, was sometimes indistinct.

     The music score by Ben Onono and Paul Thomson had an epic feel and was augmented by African and Reggae rhythms and a bit of Handel.

     Lip synchronisation fine.

     The layer chance created a slight pause during a scene change.

    Note: The distributors, Madman, were contacted about the issue noted above. They advised that it was a fault that had been corrected for later releases and that replacements are available to customers upon request.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Making of (5:01)

     A short EPK with film and behind the scenes footage and sound bites from interviewees who are not identified but who include the three leads and the director.

Trailers (3:40)

     Theatrical trailers for Reaching For the Moon and The Sea.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region 2 UK version of Half of a Yellow Sun on Amazon is listed as containing these extras:

     I have not been able to find any reviews of the DVD to be able to confirm if these extras are indeed present. If they are, that is clearly the best choice. There is a Region 1 US release, but I am unable to find out any details.

Summary

     Half of a Yellow Sun, looks at a terrible period in recent Nigerian history told through the lives and loves of two beautiful, intelligent, highly educated sisters. In Thandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose and Chiwetel Ejiofor it has an impressive cast, but the film is principally a romance and too sanitised to really give a feel for the chaos and horror of civil war so is not as compelling or powerful as it should be.

     The video is beautiful; there is a fault in the audio of this review copy that has been corrected. The extras are minimal.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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